“Lord, Give Me a Listening Heart!” Dictum of the Newly Appointed ITI President and Rector, DDr. Bernhard Dolna

The official transferal ceremony of the office of rector at ITI Catholic University opened with a prayer in the ITI Byzantine Chapel on the Feast of the Procession of the Honorable and Life-Giving Cross according to the Byzantine Rite on August 1. The outgoing Rector Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau and the incoming Rector DDr. Bernhard Dolna received a special blessing from the Very Rev. Yuriy Kolasa (the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Vienna for the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Head of Formation Program at the ITI) for the new missions that they undertook that day. The blessing occurred with the relics of the Precious Cross of Our Savior Jesus Christ, to which the ITI Byzantine Chapel is dedicated, and with the relics of the ITI Patroness Saint Therese of Lisieux.

In the presence of ITI personnel in Riley Hall that morning, the outgoing Rector Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau stood up as the representative of ITI’s Grand Chancellor, His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schönborn. On his behalf, Dr. Geusau solemnly read the official decree of DDr. Dolna’s appointment signed by His Eminence on 31 July 2023. He handed the decree over to him, together with the various regalia of the office of rector: the rector’s gown (which will bear DDr. Dolna’s name and whose authority in the institute is symbolized through the red color on the inside of the gown), the Rector’s hat, the box with the ITI stamp and thank you cards for writing to our benefactors, and the master keys to the Schloss, Campus, and the safe with important documents.

“Along with the keys, I am giving you a personal gift: It is a key-hanger that I was gifted when I became the President and Rector of the ITI with an image of Pope Francis and Our Lady. May this be for you a symbol of always remaining faithful to the successor of St. Peter, knowing that we are a pontifical institute and we are always called to be faithful to the Holy Father and the Church, no matter who the Holy Father is,” Dr. Geusau stated at the conclusion of his presentation of the various symbols of authority to ITI’s new President and Rector DDr. Bernhard Dolna. Congratulating DDr. Dolna on his new appointment, the assembly sang axios, which means “worthy,” to the newly appointed President and Rector, borrowing from the tradition in the liturgy for an episcopal ordination in the Byzantine rite, according to which the ordination becomes actual only if the faithful confirm it by saying aloud axios.

In gratitude for the trust that was shown to his person through the decree of the Grand Chancellor, the newly appointed Rector addressed his colleagues with the following words: “St. Peter’s keys are a very important symbol. They open the door of Heaven for us. I hope to serve in the same way: to always protect and open the gates to the teaching of the Church for students and professors, and to everyone who comes to study at our university.”

Then he brought a quotation from the readings of last Sunday. It was King Solomon, who prayed for wisdom before being appointed a king of Israel: “And your servant is in the midst of your people ... Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:8-9). “In the light of this statement I ask the Lord for a listening heart and to make me aware of the divine dignity present in each student and professor of the ITI. My governing is to serve the realizing of this truth.”

DDr. Dolna finished his first address as ITI Rector: “I see the great responsibility with which my new office is imbued. Such a position you do not take up on your own initiative. You are called to it and you are appointed to it, so that the abundance of strength needed to follow this call and act upon it comes from God and not from oneself, as St. Paul says: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).”